Khalif Meares's stingy defense leads Lincoln past Gratz

Khalif Meares is a breath of fresh air on the basketball court.

The 6-foot-2 senior guard for Lincoln High is quick afoot, passes with aplomb, and considers himself a defensive player first.

Those attributes were on display Thursday afternoon as the Railspiltters’ defense stifled Gratz in the second half en route to a 63-51 Public League Liberty Division victory.

Meares, who finished with a game-high 21 points, also added four steals, four assists, and four rebounds.

Last season, his jack-of-all-trades style helped Lincoln into the second round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs.

“I think I have a lot more responsibilities than last year,” Meares said. “I have to make sure everybody gets involved in the game.”

By Thursday’s intermission, Lincoln had squandered an early nine-point edge and went into the break tied at 28 after Gratz’s Quadri Blount banked in a deep three-pointer at the buzzer.

In the second half, however, Meares sparked Lincoln’s full-court defensive pressure. Gratz finished with 20 turnovers and shot just 17-of-47 overall (36.2 percent), and 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) from the three.

“We just had to stop arguing, fix our mistakes and come out harder in the second half,” Meares said. “We’re a running team so we like [to pressure teams].”

“I’m a defensive player,” he added. “I do a lot of running for my team.”

He also did a lot of scoring.

His deft mid-range shooting touch and ability to finish at the basket with either hand led to an efficient 7-of-13 performance from the field. Meares also finished 7 of 7 at the foul line.

Not bad for someone who wasn’t always offensively inclined.

“Since I was young I just always worked on my defense,” he said. “The last two years, I’ve been working on my offensive game.”

His senior teammate Tyree Corbett, who played at Frankford at the start of this season, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Sanhei Day coupled 10 points with seven rebounds and a buzzer beater of his own to end the third quarter.

Gratz was led by Jaron Flowers, who finished with 13 points. Blount, a fellow senior, added 11.

Box

Lincoln 15 13 19 16 63
Simon Gratz 8 20 11 12 51

L: Khalif Meares 21, Sanhei Day 10, Tyree Corbett 13, Shakeir Morrison 2, Jahi Randall 4, Emeul Charleston 6, Travis Coleman 1, Samir Williams 2, Patrick Obogo 2, Carl Jefferson 2.

G: Jaron Flowers 13, Quadri Blount 11, Yassir Stover 9, Kyrey Ryan 7, Malik Green 6, William Moore 3, Jahmir York 2.